Search This Blog

Friday, July 4, 2008

Bavinck: In the Beginning...book extracts

I’ve just finished reading “In the Beginning” by Bavinck. Bavinck was a well regarded reformed theologian, Dutch, working in late 19C. This book is an extract from his 4 volume systematic theology.

It’s fascinating to read theology that interacts with the concerns of the time, as Bavinck does, so some interesting reflections on science as it was then, and its controversies.

Bavinck was not strict on Genesian ‘days’ being ordinary days. I don’t think that he considered a day to be several millennia, but days 1, 2 and 3 of creation were treated differently by him. He also made the comment that day 6 seemed to have a lot happening…but that’s an arbitrary objection, I think, and really a pretty silly basis for evaluating what Scripture clearly lays before us.

On the other hand, he offers lots of thoughts about creation and its theological significance. I’ve provided some quotes below, with page numbers noted. He treats Darwinism extensively, but I’ve not included extracts of that here. I suggest there is rich food for thought in the connections that run between pantheism, deism, materialism and theistic evolution that Bavinck suggests.

His observations on ‘time’ are fascinating and he gives interesting contemporary information on how the idea of an old earth originated in modern times with the need to accommodate evolutionary fairy tales. The long ages required for evolution were not at the time supported by geologists and others, who saw things very differently: a great example of cultural pressure driving ‘scientific’ consensus as the age of the earth extended to keep up with evolutionary requirements (I’d note that even the current ‘age’ is insufficient given Haldane’s Dilemma.

My comments are in [brackets].

33
Materialism, however, cannot accept a prime mover existing independently of matter. So the materialist has no choice but to also declare absolute and eternal (like the atom) motion, change or with Czolbe, even this existing world.

56
A Creation-Based Worldview
Pantheism attempts to explain the world dynamically; materialism attempts to do so mechanically…In both systems an unconscious blind fate is elevated to the throne of the universe. Both fail to appreciate the riches and diversity of the world, erase the boundaries between heaven and earth, matter and spirit, soul and body, man and animal, intellect and will, time and eternity, Creator and creature, being and nonbeing, and dissolve all distinctions in a bath of deadly uniformity. Both deny the existence of a conscious purpose and cannot point to a cause or a destiny for the existence of the world and its history.

Scripture’s worldview is radically different. From the beginning heaven and earth have been distinct. Everything was created with a nature of its own and rests in ordinances established by God. Sun, moon, and stars have their own unique task; plants, animals, and humans are distinct in nature. There is the most profuse diversity and yet, in that diversity, there is also a superlative kind of unity. The foundation of both diversity and unity is in God…Here is a unity that does not destroy [in contrast to all monism] but maintains diversity, and a diversity that does not come at the expense of unity but rather unfolds it in its riches.

[Thus, in biblical creation we have a worldview that defeats reductionist numbing of diversity into a lesser monistic ‘truth’ of all having ‘emerged’ from the one. Such notions make diversity somehow fraudulent, not real, because what is real is the ‘one’. Whereas God has given us genuine diversity as his creation has come from his hand in splendid multiplicity, where there is relationship, but true difference. The many has come from the ‘one’ not by mechanical or mystical emergency, but by thought and will shaped by love.

By extension, biotic diversity is similarly a genuine diversity: it all shares a maker, and a life ’language’ and systems. Evolutionary thinking eliminates true diversity and for Christians, theistic evolution directly denies Genesis 1: 9 and 20-24, where we are told explicitly and repeatedly (with inescapable emphasis) that plants and animals are made to reproduce after their kind: separation is built in, unlike evolution, where separation has putatively, emerged, as something mechanically inherent and not devised in love. Evolution, of course, has no place for love…it is just a machine]

58
Augustine states that all things are distinct in mode, species [this does not mean modern biological species], number, degree, and order. And precisely by these qualities they bring about that world, that universe, in which God, in his good pleasure, distributes good things, and which on that account is a manifestation of his perfections. For all that diversity can only be attributed to God, not to the merits of his creatures. “There is no nature even among the least and lowest of beats that he did not fashion…the properties without which nothing can either be or be conceived.”

59
As a result of this worldview Christianity has overcome both the contempt of nature [better: creation] and its deification. In paganism a human being does not stand in the right relationship to God and therefore not to the world either. Similarly in pantheism and materialism the relation of human beings to nature is fundamentally corrupted. One moment man considers himself infinitely superior to nature and believes that it no longer has any secrets for him. The next moment he experiences nature as a dark and mysterious power that he does not understand, whose riddles he cannot solve, and form whose power he cannot free himself. Intellectualism and mysticism alternate. Unbelief makes way for superstition and materialism turns into occultism….Here, accordingly there is room for love and admiration of nature, but all deification is excluded. Here a human being is placed in the right relation to the world because he has been put in the right relation to God. For that reason also creation is the fundamental dogma: throughout Scripture it is in the foreground and is the foundation stone on which the Old and New Covenants rest.

Finally, this doctrine rules out an egoistic theology and a false optimism. Certainly there is an element of truth in the view that all things exist for the sake of man, or rather for the sake of humanity, the church of Christ…But that humanity has its ultimate purpose, along with all other creatures, in the glorification of God. To that all things are subordinate.

102
For, according to Genesis, all the creatures which were brought forth in those six days…did not emerge by immanent forces in accordance with fixed laws from the available matter in the manner of evolution. That matter was in itself powerless to produce all this solely in the way of natural progression by immanent development. In itself it did not have the capacity for it; it only possessed a capacity for obedience. From the primary matter of Genesis 1:1, God, by speaking and creating, brought forth the entire cosmos. While in every new act of formation he linked up with what already existed, the higher phase did not solely proceed by an immanent force from the lower. At every stage a creating word of God’s omnipotence was needed.

[He then goes on to criticise Herder’s separation of the work of creation into “two ternaries”…foreshadowing as it did the ‘framework hypothesis’…but sees the six days as representing days of ‘separation’ followed by days of ‘adornment’ with a general progression from “a lower level to a higher level, from the general conditions for organics life to this organic life itself in its various forms.”]

Influence of ANE myths (97f)
The derivation of the creation story from the land of the Tigris and Euphrates therefore is only a small part of this pan-Babylonianism. What we are dealing with here is not an isolated instance, but a general intellectual trend which, after the literary-critical school had displayed its impotence, attempted to explain the problem of the Bible along religious-historical lines. [Then discussion of historical and linguistic questions]…But upon a careful reading none of these passages yields virtually any ground for the assertion that belief in creation in Israel still in many respects bears a mythological character. For, in the first place, it cannot be denied that these representations serve to describe very different things…Second, when these words are used as descriptions of natural powers, they never in Scripture refer to the natural power that the Babylonian creation story introduces as Tiammat…But we are nowhere told that at the creation there was a natural power opposed to God which he had to overcome.

120
But when Scripture, from its own perspective precisely as the book of religion, comes in contact with other sciences and also sheds its light on them, it does not all at once cease to be the Word of God but remains the Word. Even when it speaks about the genesis of heaven and earth, it does not present saga or myth or poetic fantasy but offers, in accordance with its own clear intent, history, the history that deserves credence and trust. And for that reason Christian theology, with only a few exceptions, continued to hold onto the literal historical view of the creation story. [Remember, he writes in late 1800s]

147
There is no advantage for people to say that it is better to be a highly developed animal than a fallen human. The theory of the animal ancestry of humans violates the image of God in man and degrades the human into an image of the orang-utan and chimpanzee. From the standpoint of evolution humanity as the image of God cannot be maintained. The theory of evolution forces us to return to creation as Scripture presents it to us.

The Age of Humanity
In connection with the theory of the origin of man the doctrine of evolution also tends to conflict with Scripture in regard to the age, the unity and the original abode of the human race. Great age was attributed to the human race by many peoples, including the Japanese, the East Indians, the Babylonians, the Egyptians, the Greeks, and the Romans, who spoke of several world ages and of myriads and hundreds of thousands of years. Modern anthropology has from time to time returned to these fabulous figures but is no more consistent than pagan mythology; it ranges between 10,000 and 500,000 years and more.

In recent years there is a general tendency to observe greater moderation in calculating the age of the earth and humanity. Darwin, of course, demanded an incalculable number of years to allow for the origination of species by minute changes, for if evolution never proceeded faster than it does now, the origin of life and of every type of organism required an extraordinarily long time. When scientists began to compute, consistently with this theory of evolution, how long it would take for the human eye to develop from a tiny spot of pigment and for the brains of animals to develop from an original ganglion, they automatically arrived at immensely long times, which had to be multiplied a number of times for the duration of all of life on earth. Some of them along with Darwin himself in the first edition of his Origin of Species therefore came to a figure of 300 million years for the age of life on earth and the majority used even higher figures.

But gradually physicists and geologists began to register objections to these figures. They themselves began to calculate, attempting in various ways and by various methods to estimate the age of the earth, the ocean, the moon, and the sun. And although they differed among themselves over millions of years, still the time they assumed for that age was generally much shorter than that demanded by biologists. They spoke at most of 80 or 100 million, and sometimes went down as low as 10 re 20 million years—and as is clear from this difference, the calculation is again highly uncertain and subject to modification at a moment’s notice—it is self evident that the origin of life and humanity is much less remote…Of more value for that determination of the age of the human race are the chronological data that are furnished us by the history and monuments of different peoples…[a number of authors are then cited with ages within the biblical range and he discusses a number of factors that point to a recent age for the human race…]

165
This view then unwittingly prompts them to accept the theory of evolution, according to which the essence of man is situated not in what he was or is but in what he, in an endless process of development and by his own exertions, may become. Paradise lies ahead, not behind us. An evolved ape deserves preference over a fallen human. Original bearing the image of an orang-utan and chimpanzee, man gradually pulled himself up from a state of raw brutishness to that of a noble humanity.

It hardly needs saying that Holy Scripture is diametrically opposed to this theory of evolution. Christian churches, almost unanimously rejected the naturalistic Pelagian view of the image of God and man’s original state. Aside from the arguments for the Darwinian hypothesis…there are actually no direct historical proofs for the animal state…as far as we go back in history we find a condition of relatively high levels of civilization…

237
The Problem of Pantheism
Pantheism knows of no distinction between and the being of the world and—idealistically—lets the world be swallowed up in God or—materialistically—lets God be swallowed up in the world. On that position there is no room for the [act of] creation and therefore no room, in the real sense, for preservation and government. Providence then coincides with the course of nature. The laws of nature are identical with the decrees of God, and the rule of God is nothing other than “the fixed and immutable order of nature” or “the concatenation of natural things.” On that view there is no room for miracle, the self-activity of secondary causes, personality, freedom, prayer, sin, and religion as a whole. While pantheism may present itself in ever so beautiful and seductive a form, it actually takes its adherents back into the embrace of a pagan fate. On its premises there is no other existence than the existence of nature; no higher power than that which operates in the world in accordance with iron-clad law; no other and better life than that for which the materialism are present in the visible creation. For a time people may flatter themselves with the idealistic hope that the world will perfect itself by an immanent series of developments, but soon this optimism turns into pessimism, this idealism into materialism.

Over against this pantheism it was the task of Christian theology to maintain the distinction between creation and preservation, the self-activity of secondary causes, the freedom of personality, the character of sin, the truth of religion. It did this by rejecting fate and by clearly elucidating the confession of God’s providence in distinction from it. The distinguishing feature of the theory of fate is not that all that exists and occurs in time is grounded and determined in God’s eternal counsel, but the idea that all existence and occurrence is determined by a power which coincides with the world and which, apart from any consciousness and will, determines all things thought blind necessity. According to Cicero, the fate of the Stoa was “an order and series of causes with one cause producing another from within itself.” A further distinction made was that between a mathematical or astral fate when events on earth were thought to be determined by the stars and a natural fate when they were deemed to be determined by the nexus of nature. It is in this latter form that the theory of fate presently appears in pantheism and materialism…Belief in fate, after all, proceeded from the idea that all things happen as a result of an irresistible blind force having neither consciousness nor will and those events were called fatalia which happen apart form the will of God and men by the necessity of a certain order.

239
The Problem of Deism
On the other side of this spectrum stands Deism, which separates God and the world. This position is one which, in total or in part, separates the creatures, once they have then created, from God and then, again in larger or smaller part, it allows them to exist and function on their own power, a power received at the time of creation. Deism thus basically revives the pagan theory of chance. ..

The period beginning in the middle of the seventeenth century was marked by a powerful effort to emancipate nature, world, humanity, science, and so forth from God and to make them self-reliant in relation to him, to Christianity, church, and theology. In this respect latitudinarianism, Deism, rationalism, and the Enlightenment were all in agreement. This is the best of all possible worlds; humanity endowed with intellect and will, is self-sufficient; natural law, the forces of nature, natural religion, and natural morality together comprise a reserve of energies with which God endowed the world at the creation and which are now entirely adequate for its existence and development. Revelation, prophecy, miracles, and grace are totally redundant. Deism did not deny the existence of God, nor creation or providence. On the contrary, it loved to refer to the “Supreme Being” and discoursed at length on providence. But there was no longer any vitality in this belief. Deism in principle denied that God worked in creation in any way other than in accordance with and through the laws and forces of nature. Thus it was, from the outset, antisupranaturalistic. Preservation was enough; a kind of cooperation or divine influx operative along with every act of a creature was unnecessary.

In its eighteenth-century form, this deism indeed belongs to the paste. But in substance in both theory and practice it still holds sway in wide circles. Since, especially in the present century [19th], our knowledge of nature has greatly expanded and the stability of its laws has been recognized, many people are inclined to separate nature in its pitiless and unchanging character from God’s government to let it rest independently in itself…

242
Deism is essentially irreligious. For the Deist the salvation of humanity consists not in communion with God but in separation from him. The Deist’s mind is at ease only in detachment from God, that is, if he can be a practical atheist…In principle Deism is always the same: it deactivates God…Especially today, now that everyone is so deeply convinced of the stability of the natural order, there is no room in it for chance, and Deism again falls back into the embrace of ancient fate while chance is mainly reserved for the domain of religious and ethical concerns. But the doctrine of chance is no better than that of fate…chance and fortune are un-Christian through and through.

2 comments:

Healyhatman said...

Both fail to appreciate the riches and diversity of the world

No they don't. I'm not sure where that supposition arrives from but it's quite patently untrue.

It could be said that theism removes appreciation of the "riches and diversity" by claiming they were all put there specifically by a supernatural being - much easier to appreciate the beauty of a nature that has arrived by naturalistic means - 14 billion years of cosmic evolution, the current apex of which rests upon your eyes perceiving it.

freefun0616 said...

酒店經紀人,
菲梵酒店經紀,
酒店經紀,
禮服酒店上班,
酒店小姐兼職,
便服酒店經紀,
酒店打工經紀,
制服酒店工作,
專業酒店經紀,
合法酒店經紀,
酒店暑假打工,
酒店寒假打工,
酒店經紀人,
菲梵酒店經紀,
酒店經紀,
禮服酒店上班,
酒店經紀人,
菲梵酒店經紀,
酒店經紀,
禮服酒店上班,
酒店小姐兼職,
便服酒店工作,
酒店打工經紀,
制服酒店經紀,
專業酒店經紀,
合法酒店經紀,
酒店暑假打工,
酒店寒假打工,
酒店經紀人,
菲梵酒店經紀,
酒店經紀,
禮服酒店上班,
酒店小姐兼職,
便服酒店工作,
酒店打工經紀,
制服酒店經紀,
酒店經紀,

,